We see so much in print these days about the “addicted”, the “overdoses”, the “bad guys” that are posting incorrect information all over the internet and about the opioid crisis. Of course it seems as though only those of us living with daily chronic pain, truly understand that the “crisis” is indeed one of the pain patients “falling through the cracks”. Being-untreated or under treated and then committing suicide or having to spend the rest of their lives in agony. This is the true “Opioid Crisis”. But then I saw a short clip of a very well spoken, kind young woman named Victoria Suan. She was asking for volunteers to help with an upcoming video compilation called “Inside Incurable Lives”, that she was doing for Social media. She was going to follow a few stories of persons living with daily chronic pain and show how it affects their lives. I responded to her request and sent in some video clips; as did several other chronic pain patients. The first Social media video compilation called “Inside Incurable Lives, Episode 1”, came out in September 2017. In the second video compilation, Victoria was asking if chronic pain patients would be able to tell her “What one pain medication, would they not be able to live without?” Secondly, “If your Dr. Could no longer provide this, what would you do?” The second video compilation project, “Inside Incurable Lives Episode 2”, focused on the voices of pain patients and their views regarding access or lack of access to opioid pain medications as well as medical marijuana. Episode 2 finished and posted in October. I was happy to be able to participate in both of these projects. I’m trying to help with this crisis in any way that I can. Later, I will be providing the links to these 2 video compilations for Social media. But first, I want you to introduce you to Victoria Suan, and her feature Documentary “Becoming Incurable”.
Victoria lives in California and since High school, she was interested in becoming a filmmaker. She graduated from Sacramento State with a Communications degree. She started creating short documentaries during college and then afterwards she decided that she wanted to make a feature documentary. She started researching blogs and video’s on YouTube. From there she discovered the chronic illness community. Victoria found through her research, what she describes as “a wonderful support network of people who are giving one another validation as they deal with the frustrations of chronic pain.” She told me that she was thrilled by what she saw, and inspired. She decided to create a feature documentary about “chronic illness through intimate stories of real people living with chronic pain”. Starting out with her cousin who lives with Dystonia and a friend with another incurable condition, she then found her third featured person for the documentary. She describes the 8 or 9 months of filming as a “wonderful journey”.
The two video compilations on social media, that I participated in, were an extension of her feature documentary. Victoria then made a Facebook page and it became a platform for the chronic illness and pain communities. She has become a “voice” for those of us who live with pain & chronic illnesses and she is showing our side of this painful journey. She also wants to do whatever she can so people learn about her feature documentary.
Before we get to the two video compilations in which the chronic pain communitiy on Facebook participated; I’d like to share some of Victoria Suan’s views about the opioid crisis. I feel that it is very important to listen to the views of others who are neither patient, politician nor physician. Now that she has become close to several of us from the shorter video’s; I asked what her thoughts and feelings are, regarding what is happening to the chronic pain community? Her response was very heartfelt and thoughtful. Victoria told me that regarding the opioid crisis, she “really feels for the families and individuals that are dealing with addiction. Sadly, there aren’t enough ways to treat addiction without affecting the millions of chronic pain patients in our society.” She told me that she’d read that Governor Chris Christie blames hospitals and physicians for starting this opioid epidemic. She wondered “how would a person dealing with chronic pain feel about this? How ignored and betrayed they must feel. Is it wrong to eliminate a torturous level of pain by taking medication as prescribed by Dr.s?” My own feelings are that politicians seem to not really care as long as it doesn’t touch them or their own families. Victoria agrees that they just don’t want to listen to this. She feels that as chronic pain patients, we should not have to fight so hard just to be heard, really listened to. But we are trying to fight because our very lives depend on it.
Victoria feels that it is “sad that one governors personal opinion can do more to influence legislation than the voices of millions of chronic pain patients.” She is happy that there are News outlets such as this and others, along with non profit organizations, such as the U.S. Pain Foundation; that are educating the public about chronic pain. Victoria thinks that the film industry; especially a film called “Unrest” that is touring worldwide; and her documentary, “Becoming Incurable”, show that efforts are being made to educate and inform the general public about chronic pain.
Lastly, I wondered what she has learned from doing the 2 video compilations and the documentary film. She mentioned that she hadn’t realized before doing this, how difficult it is for people living with chronic pain to “do normal tasks, such as getting out of bed and/or going to the grocery store”. I think that it taught her and hopefully will teach others about “Invisible Illnesses”. She says that actually seeing these people in their pain, made her “truly acknowledge what life is like with chronic pain and illness”. She feels that these projects taught her that each person has their own unique story to tell. She has figured out through these projects, that we are united in our pain yet each of our situations vary widely. I want to share with you in Victoria’s words, what she wants people to learn from watching “Becoming Incurable”. She hopes that people “will see these video compilations showcasing pain patients and stand with organizations that are fighting for the chronic illness community. If our government continues on this path of neglect, I’m certain that chronic pain patients will be forced to fight a human rights issue. I think this has already begun, as we are learning the numbers of chronic illness patients committing suicide. It is important that we speak and act now in order to invalidate a campaign that deems anyone taking opioid medication as a suspect of the addiction problem.
Here are the links to the 2 video compilations of “Inside Incurable Lives” by film producer, Victoria Suan:
Several years ago I was approached by a YouTube channel called “Invisible No More TV”. They had seen some of my advocacy videos for patients, chronic pain, RSD/CRPS and “invisible disabilities/illnesses”. They asked me if I would like to be featured on their channel in a short video describing “invisible disabilities” and being “invisible no more’. I agreed and I’ve been featured on that channel ever since 2012. I later found out that this YouTube channel is a part of a much bigger organization called the “Invisible Disabilities Association”. The reason that I’m telling you this today is because this week is “Invisible Disabilities Awareness week”. I’ve always been a team player for IDA and have always supported them and they have always supported me, since we met in 2012.
First of all, let me explain that an “invisible disability”, according to the IDA website, which you can find by visiting: Invisibledisabili.org, is “a physical, mental or neurological condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities that is invisible to the onlooker. Unfortunatley the very fact that these symptoms are invisible, can lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions and judgements.” The Invisible Disabilities organization works tirelessly throughout the year to bring awareness to illnesses, diseases and disabilities that often times seem to go unnoticed. One week during the year, the third week of October is the time to share your journey with invisible disabilities. This year, that week is October 15th through the 21st, is “Invisible Disabilities awareness week”. During this wek, we will be posing many interactive posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These are where you can share your personal stories, advocacy, favorite people, places, pets and anything else like this that you wish to share. This is YOUR week to meet new friends, post a video or share stories with others. The reason for this is that we want to show you that you are “INVISIBLE NO MORE” and just because people say “but you look good”; doesn’t mean that nothing is wrong on the inside.
This is how this week will play out: On Monday we want you to “share your story”. You can post as much or as little as you wish. You can post a photo collage with a story underneath, or you can make a *short and sweet video (about 2 minutes is best). Please note that you can post your story throughout the week, but Monday is the starting date for this activity. On Tuesday we will be sharing stories of why invisible disabilities awareness is important in your life. You can make a video or a photo collage about your life and the millions of others who live with illness and pain that goes unseen sometimes. If you have the Invisible Disabilites glow-in-dark wristband, t-shirt or lapel pin; please wear it (you can buy them at the IDA website at: www.InvisibleDisabilities.org). If you have none or some of these, you can just choose a blue hat, scarf and/or a blue shirt. Invisible Disabilities Association wants to “turn the internet blue for millions living with Invisible Disabilities. IDA is on Instagram at: http://www.Instagram.com/invisibledisabilities, on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/InvDisabilities and on Facebook at: www.Facebook.com/InvisibleDisabilities. You can use the tag #InvisibleDisabilitiesWeek.
Just to give you a little bit of background about I.D.A.; they were founded in 1996. Their mission is to “encourage, educate and connect people and organizations touched by illness, pain and disability around the globe”. They believe that “together we can make a difference in our communities and around the world.”
But now I just want to tell you a little bit about my friend Sherri Connell was an actress, dancer and loved to dance and sing. When she was 27 years old she lost the ability to take care of herself. She was diagnosed with progressive Multiple Sclerosis and she was in a wheelchair paralyzed. At first friends and family were understanding and supportive. She has been able to regain some use of her legs with a lot of work and effort. She still finds it difficult to stand and walk around. But because suddenly the other people in her life could no longer “see” how the MS was disabling, they stopped being as understanding. It was not the wheelchair that kept her from her career, but the disabling fatigue, cognitive dysfunctions, horrible pain and dizziness too. She could not care for her own daily needs.
Sherri’s husband Wayne, decided to try and tell people; help to educate their friends and family about her disabilities and illness. He published a few writings from her daily journals onto a website. They thought long and hard and then decided on the name “Invisible Disabilities Association”. Sherri quickly found out that she was not the only one, because she received numerous emails from people all over the world. These people reiterated that they too, had felt alone and felt like nobody understood what they were going through because sometimes it was or is “invisible”. Then it became Wayne and Sherri’s passion to help others with disabling conditions by first believing them, and then by being compassionate, supportive and hopeful.
So then, in 1996, Wayne founded the Invisible Disabilities Association (a 501(c)3); with a mision to “Encourage, Educate and Connect People, Organizations Touched by Illness, Pain and Disability Around the Globe”! If you have any questions, you can reach out to Sherri Mitchell Connell or Wayne Connell on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. You can also find them through the IDA website listed above. Let’s all have a great week of spreading the awareness of Invisible Disabilities, Invisible Pain and Illnesses that go unnoticed to others at times, but never to those of us who live with it on a daily basis.
This is my story for # Why I Sign? Transcript: Hello,, my name is Suzanne, last name Stewart. #Why I sign? I have a story: I was born Hearing & my family is hearing. I’m the past, I babysat for 6 Deaf kids, children. They lived next door. A Deaf family, full Deaf with 6 Deaf children. One day I was babysitting & something happened. But before that, we were playing games, learning signs for colors, numbers, Fingerspelling, days, months and family signs and different things. One day, one of the little girls, ohh about 9 years old was behaving badly. I said “come here… go to your room and stay there”. She was crying a little bit. She ran out and came to me bawling. She told me something but it went over my head and I understood nothing! I was thinking “hmmm… No, you need to go back to your room and stay there. She ran out to me again bawling, crying so hard. I said to her, “what’s wrong? What’s wrong? What happened? Whaaat? She started to slowly Fingerspell “b-e-e in my r-o-o-m”! Ah haa “Wonderful!!” I finally understood what was wrong! “Ohhh..Poor baby!” I felt awful! …..I said “I’m so sorry, I feel awful!” I said “please forgive me”? She said it was Ok, she was fine! I became more fascinated in learning ASL/Sign language. I just love it so much! (*No English word exactly for “hand kiss”- but it kinda means I just love it so much” or “it’s my favorite”) … I got books and learned more signs on my own. I went to College and graduated 1985! Then I worked as a hospital Interpreter, a school Interpreter and I worked at a Deaf school in AZ. I flew to Arizona and lived there for 2 years! I worked there and enjoyed it and had so much fun! I missed my family so I went back home.Then in 2002, I was in a very bad car accident. I had so many injuries, it was bad. So many pain problems and 10 surgeries, they kept adding up! My hearing deteriorated! Isn’t it Strange for an Interpreter to get hearing loss? It’s true, I have two hearing aids. But it doesn’t matter,I’m fine. I don’t care. I’m happy and proud! I already know ASL/Sign language! THATS #WHYISIGN ….bye ..Love you!
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Made with #VideoShow-https://itunes.apple.com/app/id1112850631
I married to get out of the house, when I was just 20 years old. That lasted 10 weeks and it was so terrible that I won’t even discuss that time period. Luckily that marriage was annulled and I moved away to another city to work at a school for the Deaf. I lived between my 2 aunts homes and got to work with Deaf children. I loved that job and I was also Interpreting for the Deaf at a great church. I got to participate in 2 drama groups that did sign language or “ASL” to songs and choreographed dance. I had a wonderful time during the year that I lived in Arizona. It was 1982-1983 and I celebrated my 21st birthday there and was part of a church youth group with wonderful friends.
I arrived home from Arizona and later met someone. We dated, got married and we were married for 8 years. We had 2 daughters, a dog and a beautiful home. I won’t belabor the story of how the Marriage ended because people can be hurt still today, from that “story”. I will say that I obtained help from a shelter and the Women’s Resource center. I moved out of our home a few months later when my older daughter finished kindergarten. Their father moved 1800 miles away and rarely saw them. I took care of them all by myself. I was the only person that was always there for them! Even if I had to leave my job in the middle of the day to be there for them and return to work afterwards; I would do that. So much has happened in my life. Most people would think that it’s horrific, but I soldiered on. I was almost completely alone but the three of us had each other. We were very lucky to have received some help from some very good people, churches and counselors.
When my oldest daughter was in 4th grade, I went on field trips and I took every chance possible to help out at the girls’ elementary school. I started a “Sign Language club” at their school, for a group of 4th and 5th graders. I taught 35 children some songs in Sign Language and did that for about 4 or 5 years. I love children and had so much fun interacting with them. I would teach fun songs in Sign Language and at the the end of the year we would have a show for the parents and the rest of the school. The “Silent Impressions Sign Language Club” was after school each Friday. I had that day off from my job and used it for volunteering in the classroom or at school and for teaching the Sign Language club. Towards the end of that year, my daughters’ teacher and I started to discuss meeting up for a coffee. He was a single dad and I was a single mom but we decided not to date until the school year was finished. Once we started dating we found that we were truly “soul-mates” and a little over a year later; we were married in the Wedding Chapel on Valentines day 1997.
One Saturday afternoon during the Summer of 2002, my husband and I were meandering & sipping lemonade at an outdoor Craft fair; while deciding where to go for dinner. The girls were with their friends and so we headed towards our town to a restaurant. As we were driving through a green light, a man ran through the red light and “t-boned” our mini Van with his SUV. I only remember a terrible burning smell after screaming “OH MY GOD”! The “lights went out” and I have vague memories of being in an ambulance and at a hospital and crying due to horrible pain. Luckily my husband was not hurt and a Police officer took him home to get our other car and our kids. I have no memory of the time without him being there with me.
I could not stand or barely move. My husband says that people were leaving the halls because my screams of pain were too hard for them to hear. My case was given to a trauma Dr. and I was admitted to the hospital. After 5 days my husband called my Neurologist (who I knew because of a Long thoracic nerve injury in 1999); and signed me out against medical advice. The weren’t doing anything for me. My husband told them that I was not acting like myself. I wet the bed and could not even stand to go to the bathroom. Instead of diagnosing me correctly with the TBI, that I later was finally diagnosed with; they sent up a Psych consult. They told us that I was “acting that way due to being abused”. My husband stayed with me the whole time and it was still a horrible experience. I left the hospital and that’s when questions started being answered. My then, G.P. and Neurologist helped get me the testing that was needed. I was found to have 2 torn rotator cuffs and multiple herniated/bulging lumbar and cervical discs. I had a torn Meniscus, sprained ankles and wrist. Also, I was diagnosed with Chiari I malformation, which I was born with but until the MVA, it was “sleeping”. Well, it awakened and I started having the worst migraines in the back of my neck and head. I could not hold my head by myself. My husband had to put me in a wheelchair with a yardstick behind my back and head with a pillow holding up my head. I couldn’t dress or undress myself or even go to the restroom alone. I couldn’t cut my own food or sleep in my bed. The insurance company sent a hospital bed for me to use or I slept in our recliner. I was in the most pain I’d ever known, outside of childbirth. The Physical Medicine & Rehab Dr. sent me for Neuro-Psych testing and I was found to have a TBI or “Traumatic Brain Injury”. The report said that my “short term memory was in the toilet”!! I went to a TBI Rehabilitation Center, daily from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm for 3 years. I had several different areas of nerve damage. It was discovered that I have a convergence insufficiency in my eyes and Moderate hearing loss in my ears. I needed Prisms on my glasses and 2 hearing aids. As I continued to faint nobody would help me or even listen. My husband knew something else was wrong and so did I. But to get Dr’s to listen when things are complicated and when so many things wrong; is very difficult. I saw a Neuro-Cardiologist because the TBI center sent me to him finally because of the fainting. I was diagnosed with Dysautonomia and POTS. I had Coronary spasms and a permanent pacemaker was placed. I ended up having 8 surgeries! I had visited so many shoulder Dr’s but none of them would listen to my issue regarding a “nerve zing” that went down my left arm from my left shoulder. One Dr. said to me “What part of “I can’t fix it, don’t you understand? Is it your brain injury?” OMG!! He was horrible and while I was walking out with my walker; the girls in his office looked horrified by what their boss had just said to me. I had several awful experiences with physicians, until one finally listened to me. It only takes ONE Dr. Folks! One to listen to you and help you. I ended up finding out that during that entire year that I was visiting shoulder Doctors; my biceps tendon had ruptured during the accident and it had grown onto the bone incorrectly. I had to have open shoulder surgery! They had to un-attach my Biceps tendon and reattach it with 2 screws. It was very painful.
I went through so much! Later, I had my 7th surgery, which was in 2007 on my right foot. It was the start of another nightmare! I was told that it would be a 30 minute surgery. I had been put on Coumadin, a blood thinner; due to having a heart attack in 2005. Following that Heart attack, I was diagnosed with Atrial fibrillation. After that, in 2006, I suffered a CVA or stroke. The surgeon didn’t want to take me off of the Coumadin and so she put a blood pressure cuff around my ankle to stop blood flow to the right foot. The surgeon came out and told my husband after 90 minutes, that “once inside, the foot was much more gnarly” than she originally had thought. It took much longer than expected and there was no blood going into my foot during that time. Five days after my surgery, I was hobbling along in our kitchen and suddenly a big golfball sized lump popped out of my ankle and was purple, black and blue instantly! It felt like knives sticking in my ankle and I was writhing in pain. My husband took me to the E. R. but nobody wanted to help me. I sat there crying in so much pain while they “were waiting for another ambulance to come for the girl in the next bed who was “stable”. I was crushed again that no one would help me. We paged the Dr. who did the surgery and left the E. R.! She told us to meet her at the surgery center the next morning. I had to make it through the night like that! It was so much pain! She said that the “synovial joint sac had burst over my ankle joint “ and that is why it was so painful! She gave me Fentanyl Lollipops and told me to take them until the swelling could go down. That would take time & then the pain would lessen, slowly. I went for my 6 week check up and told her that the pain was worse than before I started. She told me that I had “a little RSD” and gave me some “Lyrica” I waited and things got worse and the Lyrica was horrible with nasty side effects. It did nothing but make things worse for me. I went to another Orthopedic Dr. and got a 2nd opinion. He walked by the room and said that my foot looked like “classic RSD” and he sent me directly to a pain clinic.
Prior to that MVA, I had only known the pain of abuse, and non physical types of pain. Childbirth was painful because I had 2 C-sections. The second time was a C-section after 43 hours of labor! But it was worth it because I got to have a beautiful baby both times! Also, there was an end to the pain of labor! There is no end to my current pain. The CRPS or “RSD” has gone systemic or full body since my 2nd pacemaker placement in 2013. Everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. Mostly, because Dr.’s would not listen or had a preconceived notion of me and who I am. But I am strong! I am a survivor and it’s time to listen to me! I’m fighting for the pain patients and I won’t give up.
When we are in pain, it sometimes can be hard to see another persons pain as well. I have founded and am Administrator for several Support groups online. Some are for chronic illnesses & pain. While others are for fun and socializing. I’ve noticed that my group for people who love Cats,”The Scratching Post”; is very different than my other groups that are in support of people living with different kinds of pain. The reason that they are so different is because people who are just there to hang out and talk about the silliness of Cats are usually thinking more positive thoughts and they’re in their happy place. Those of us who struggle with pain, may feel a various number of emotions. We bring those emotions into the group setting. Luckily, in the support groups that I run; I have not had any trouble with drama, in-fighting or bullying whatsoever. I tend to think that it is because I have been the sole administrator and I take care of anything and everything Before it happens. I always check the “new requests” very thoroughly. I try to keep my groups safe from harm or any kind of researchers that want to “study” us/them. I have had people pretend to be someone who is in pain and they request to join my support group online. A long while back, I had a few interns from various countries, who wished to “study” the persons with CRPS or Invisible illnesses, so they tried to join one of my support groups. I have not ever asked their reasons because they don’t even get that far. I just don’t let them join my groups.
A few of the the ways that I keep my groups safe are by doing a few simple tasks before allowing someone to join. I look for “signs” on their pages and I ask them several questions via private message. If their page is bare, without even a cover photo or profile picture; I don’t even pursue their request to join. If it just looks a bit “private” but they’ve been on Facebook for several years, then I ask them the questions that I will post below for you. If they have a few friends in my support group(s), or if they are referred by someone in the group; I usually just welcome them to the group and don’t check much more. I will ask the person who referred them or the people they have as their “friends”, if they know them well or if they are just an acquaintance? Here are a few of the questions that I ask a prospective new member in one of my online support groups:
- First I will make a statement something like : “Hello, my name is Suzanne and I’m the founder/admin. for the group that you have asked to join (then I name the group)”. Then I’ll say, “Please don’t feel singled out, because I ask all prospective members the same questions. I like to just get to know you a little bit to make sure that you are in the right group for what you want/need.”
- Secondly, I will ask them How did you find this group? What were you searching for?(Because my groups are mostly private, which means they can be seen in name only but the posts are private)….this also helps both of us make sure that they’re in the right place.
- Then I might ask, What makes you want to join this type of group? Do you live with __ or __? (*Chronic illness, invisible illnesses and/or RSD/CRPS), or are you a Caregiver?
- Next, I will say “When were you diagnosed? Where do you live?”
- Then I will check everything out and usually allow them to join
- If they don’t or won’t answer any of the questions, I don’t allow them into my groups. There are many other groups out there and I just want my members to feel safe.
- If their page has zero information, zero photos and nothing that you can see whatsoever, that is a bad sign and I just usually “ignore” that request to join.
Some ideas for Administrators and moderators of groups already ongoing are:
- Check the group regularly and just look over the new posts as they come in. Respond as soon as possible.
- Look for abusive language &/or aggressive behaviors
- Watch for a person that may be “picked on” or who has the anger of the group “dumped” on them. Act accordingly to figure out and fix the problem.
- If you have spoken to someone a couple of times and they are rude to you or other members, it’s time to take them out of your group for the members’ sake
- Ask for help, as I just recently started doing. I just couldn’t be everywhere and do it all. I asked for volunteers, for people who wanted to do some of the things that I cannot keep up with. Such as checking out all of the new members. Watching for any abusive, nasty or negative language or posts; and then telling me about them. Then I can decide whether to delete the post or talk to the person. Either way I will speak to the writer of those kinds of posts; it’s just a matter of before or after I delete it. My new moderators have the choice if it is a very abusive post to just delete it and tell me who and what, later.
- Make sure that if you do ask for help, you choose people that you relate well with. Also persons who you have known for quite a while and you trust them and their judgement.
Unfortunately, many of us with Chronic pain issues and illness, don’t always have the most supportive families or friends. These types of people also try to show up in groups to find out information for the “family”. That is another article in and of itself about Malignant Narcissist’s or abusers. If you have a supportive family, that is half the battle; it’s wonderful for you and that alone can help with your healing.
Whether you are a founder/administrator, a moderator or a member of an online support group. Try to think first before you write, or at least before you hit the “send” button. Remember that in Facebook support groups, you have the chance to go back and delete what you have written. Just in case you were terribly upset (we all can feel that way sometimes) and you want to get rid of your post before another person’s feelings get hurt or worse. Never carry private or specific information from one group to another. If in doubt, always ask the administrator(s). If you want to re-post an article or something similar, then go to the original Website where that article was posted and share straight from there. This way you aren’t taking a post from one group and sharing with others. Usually it is impossible to “share” between private groups anyways; but just in case.
We all continue to learn and grow in our lives each day. I’ve made mistakes before and I try to make amends or change whatever I can, so that I don’t repeat the error of my ways. I do my best to think first before I react or say something to another person, whether they are a friend or foe. Regardless if they are online in a group or out in the world in some kind of group setting. We are all humans and everyone feels hurt when someone is downright rude or is treating us badly. I want to add that if you are going to comment either way about something that someone has said, written or done; always be sure that you know all of the facts first. Don’t just read one line of something that someone has written, and then make a rude or cutting remark. Don’t try to guess what someone means when they write a sentence or two in a group post online. Sometimes the short or hastily written words cannot depict the true feelings, ideas or thoughts of a group member. Keep in mind that some people are better at expressing themselves with spoken words and others are better at writing. Try to not get bothered by the small things, and think about what the “tone” of the words feel like to you; even if you might’ve said it differently.
When all is said and done, remember that we all inhabit this internet world together. We need to be as kind, loving and gentle as possible. There are always times when we say or do the wrong things. What we do afterwards, or the next time; is what matters most. Be kind and remember that the person you are upset with may have a whole mountain of issues, illnesses or problems that you don’t even know about. That doesn’t give them the right to abuse or hurt you or others in any way. But just get away & remove yourself from the situation whenever possible. It never hurts to explain yourself, if you feel that someone has gotten it wrong or judged you wrongly.
Lastly, please remember in the support groups for chronic pain, illness, grief, abuse survivors etc….these people are hurting a bit more than the average amount. Try to be understanding and be a good listener, especially in a support group. Give hurting members; those who are in much pain either physically or emotionally, a little leeway. Remember to be gentle and kind. If you felt hurt by the actions or words of another member in your support group, step back for a moment and think. If you forget and then realize that you retaliated against someone in a group, because you felt angry or hurt; try to make amends. Try to put yourself in someone Else’s situation, if you know it. If not, then try to just be thoughtful of others feelings. Treat them how you would like to be treated. Remember that Kindness matters!
It’s been a rough few months but now it’s time to get to the “present” and think about the holidays. Even though Christmas day is done it’s still a great time to think about the “true” meaning of the holidays.
We had a wonderful “pre-Christmas” family get-together this year. It was at our house last weekend before Christmas! It was a wonderful and awesome family time together. I got to have both of my daughters, their husbands and our 3 granddaughters all together under one roof! It was awesome! I got to sit out in my rocking chair, in the living room; while rocking our youngest granddaughter to sleep. She was so quiet, serene and held onto my finger. While rocking her to sleep, it was wonderful listening to the chatter throughout the house. Everyone was happy, talking and laughing. It’s times like these and occasions like this that are the foundation for building the memories we wish for ourselves and our families.
Now…I know the word “family” can hit a nerve with some people, especially during the Holiday season. But you know that you don’t have to force yourself to sit in a room filled with people who: put you down, denigrate you, degrade you, call you names, hurt you and don’t love you the way they should. YOU are worth more than this! Why people do this and complain about it, I will never understand? A “family” doesn’t have to be biological. Your family might be a group of your chosen friends.
I’ve come to the conclusion that we put too many expectations on the Christmas season. This is why so many people get more depressed, stressed and the suicide rate is even higher at this time of year.
If you have read any of this blog from the beginning, then you KNOW that I have some reasons to NOT like Christmas time and/or the holiday season. My mother died on December 22, 2002~and my grandmother died on December 30, 1986! I’ve got health issues and most of all chronic intractable pain! I have a progressive, most painful Neurological and autoimmune disease called “RSD/CRPS”. It is also known as “Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome”. Mine is systemic/full body, disseminated and severe. I have Dysautonomia/POTS/NCS and you can just *Google any of those if you wish.(If you have any questions, please message me because I can send you in the right direction if you are suffering from any of these illnesses and I may be able to help with some others too!)
My message to you this holiday season, is to try and NOT go if you don’t HAVE TO GO!~ Don’t spend time with people who don’t deserve you. Concentrate on those that are there for you all of the times, good and bad. If you must be alone, you can turn on music that is calming. You can watch Holiday movies or even drama, adventure films or comedies. If you feel like you want to get out of the house, it is OK to go to the movies by yourself. They are open on Christmas and New Years day.
Spoil yourself and sit with a comfy blanket, read a good book or play with your IPAD, laptop or your smart phone. You may choose to color with markers, crayons or chunky crayons (if your hands hurt badly) in those great new adult type of coloring books. You may choose to bake, do crafts or make a scrapbook.
The other thing is this….if you really have someone that you love and you want to be with them but you can’t possibly be there. That’s what SKYPE and /or FACETIME are for! We have friends in Scotland, Australia and Singapore and on Christmas sometimes we turn on the Face time or Skype and we open our pressies from each other IN FRONT OF EACH OTHER! Isn’t that way cool? Technology has become a life saver for many people.
If you are full of bad memories and they are clogging up your mind. Try to think of at least one or two good memories that you have?? I remember our church program one year when they had videotaped children seeing their Military parents come home for Christmas! These kids were in awe with their mouths as open as I’ve never seen before. They were genuinely excited and totally surprised to see their father or mother. They hadn’t thought they’d be seeing them and suddenly that parent walked into their classroom or someplace where they could surprise them well! The looks on their faces were precious and priceless!
I have a GOOD memory,that I want to share with you today. Much of my blog is about some of the bad things that have happened and seems to continue to happen to me throughout my life. But today, I want to share a happy memory and I hope it will help you through your holidays that sometimes can feel “empty” and /or “hopeless” when you are not celebrating as the rest of the population “appears” to be celebrating. Just remember, you have to make your own atmosphere and do what you can to stay “afloat” and not get too sad. There are some suggestions above, that I’ve given you. There are others in books and blogs and websites, you just have to go and look for the help you need.
Here is my happy memory: When I was about 12 years old, I had made friends with a “grandma” type lady down the street from us. Her name was “Mrs. Usitis” and she invited me to tag along with her to Pennsylvania from Michigan where we lived. My parents allowed me to go because I was going with her and she was taking me to visit with her grand niece who was just one year older than me.
We arrived and I stayed with the young niece and her parents and Mrs. U. stayed with her sister and brother in law. I had a wonderful time and they treated me very well. But I just didn’t know them well, yet..at the time. I had never been away from home or even really never spent the night anywhere before that. I was homesick. I missed my bed and my mom and dad.*( I don’t have a ton of bad memories as a very very young child. I have some and some that I thought were “normal” and I’ve since found out that they are not “normal” and they were downright abusive even then, when I thought my family was “normal” and that I was the “bad one”.)
My mom got my phone calls and I couldn’t sleep or eat and I felt really far away from anything I knew. She spoke to a cousin of hers in Pennsylvania and they said that the friends who I was staying with could bring me to their home. They thought if I was with “COUSINS”(even though I’d never even met them), that it might help me feel more comfortable. I still felt homesick and was crying and wanted to go home, because I didn’t know them either. They were as nice as they could be to me!
As I was walking around their house one day, eating a Popsicle, I heard the doorbell ring. She opened the door and there standing in the doorway, I saw my “DADDY”!!!(My brothers came too, but I didn’t care so much about them being there, as they drove with dad to keep him company…ha ha…). Back in those days, I felt that my dad and my oldest brother were my “protectors”. At the age of 12, in my head, I thought that I was “bad” and that everything that happened at our house was my fault. At that time, I felt that my mom was the more abusive person in the household. As you grow older and get the “help” or much needed therapy; you find that reality is not what you once thought.
I saw the door open and my dad was standing on the front porch. At the same time, I threw my Popsicle out into the abyss of “wherever?” and I ran as fast as possible and jumped up into my dads arms! OH….oh how I love that memory! He came to rescue me from nothing whatsoever that was “bad”, but just my being homesick for familiar surroundings. I had led and have really led a very sheltered life especially back then. We didn’t go on vacations, I didn’t go out to dinner with my parents or family; rarely even on special occasions. We pretty much went to school and stayed home. So you can imagine what a “culture shock” it would have been for me at that age and after never being out of my state OF Michigan. I mean…I went on my first airplane ride, with a neighbor lady, not someone I knew REALLY well.(But they were the nicest people…they even fed me when they knew I was hungry because I wasn’t allowed to eat much at home, at all.), and was going to stay maybe 10 days to 2 weeks? I cannot remember all of those details, but the best part of that story was when I threw my Popsicle wherever it went, we’ll never know!! LOL ….I ran and jumped up into my “daddy’s arms”.
Now THAT’s a good memory, huh?
I just wanted to reiterate that you don’t have to “choose” to be down, lonely ,sad etc during the holidays. I try to remember that life goes both ways. There are people who have it much better than me, and there are also those who have a much more difficult existence than I do. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice because we can get into a “rut”. When pain is all you know and you feel it day in and day out. When you hurt no matter if you’re lying down, sitting in a chair or trying to walk a bit. It’s hard to not concentrate on the bad stuff. It’s sometimes difficult to see others who are not in pain doing the things that we want to do. But Life is only 10% what happens to you and 90% is the way you look at it, or your own attitude! Try to relax, breathe and enjoy whatever moments that you can and don’t expect anything and you won’t be let down!
Happy Holiday season to everyone. Please pray for our Soldiers who will not be able to be anywhere near home for the Holidays, with their own families. They are out fighting for our country and our lives, our children and grandchildren’s future and lives too! Pray for them, for the young men and women who are fighting as I write this blog. My friend, “R”, has a son who is in Afghanistan right now. He left just a month ago or so? He is one that cannot make it home for Christmas. So let’s pray for “R” and her son, “S” and anyone else that you’d like to say a prayer for at this time and during this season of Jesus’ birth.